- November 30, 2018
“Work smarter” is a common goal in the business world. But for John Verhoff, CEO and founder of Naples-based Plumbing Nerds, it’s not only a goal but a major part of his company’s personality.
Plumbing Nerds is the third evolution of the plumbing company Verhoff started after moving to Southwest Florida in 2007. He initially worked on new construction projects. But after making it through the 2008-2009 recession, he began to realize that working for contractors didn’t provide as much control over his business flow as he wanted.
In 2012, Verhoff shifted focus to strictly home service, first partnering with a friend on a company that had locations in Florida and two other states. When he bought out his friend on the Florida portion of the business in 2016, he needed a new name and identity. And that’s when Plumbing Nerds was born.
His wife told him at the time that it was “the stupidest name” she had ever heard of. “And I knew if I could get that reaction from her that I was on to something,” recalls Verhoff, 44.
The company prides itself on offering “smarter plumbing solutions” that are “delivered with nerd-like enthusiasm.” It makes use of the latest equipment and technology but also taps into the power of its people.
“We just hire really good people who care,” Verhoff says. “Our number-one core value is trust and honesty, and that’s also my number-one non-negotiable from the very beginning.”
As early as the first interview, he stresses to prospective hires that unethical or untrustworthy behavior won’t be tolerated at the company. After they’re hired, Plumbing Nerds gives staff members plenty of guidance, supporting its 65 employees with continuous training.
“I think that’s part of why we’re able to attract really good talent, because of our constant emphasis on getting better,” Verhoff says. “I believe it’s important and one of our differentiators from our competitors.”
He adds, “It’s a circle — if we do the right thing for the employees, the employees will do the right thing for the customers. And if we do the right thing for the customers, they do the right thing for the company.”
That kind of thinking has paid off. Plumbing Nerds grew 50% in 2020, 62% in 2021 and 78% percent in 2022, ending that year at just under $10 million in gross annual revenue. And that growth occurred even as the company dealt with the challenges caused by the pandemic and Hurricane Ian. An ability to adapt quickly proved key to weathering both storms.
Verhoff’s biggest takeaway from the last few years? The need to constantly evolve.
“We adopted that as a core value,” he says. “Not only because of those challenges, but also just because of how quickly everything changes now. We know that we will fall behind quickly if we don’t evolve, so we made it a part of our language and it’s now in our core values.”
The company has an ambitious goal of 90% growth in 2023. Adding HVAC services to the company’s offerings in the second quarter of 2023 will play a big part in achieving that kind of growth. After getting the team aligned and the right people in the right positions, Verhoff says the time was right to make that addition: “HVAC is going to be the game changer this year.”
That evolution won’t be without its challenges, especially as supply chain issues linger. “But we’ve been planning this for the past three months, and we still have a couple more months to prep everything,” Verhoff says.
Plumbing Nerds’ service area can stretch from Punta Gorda to Marco Island, but when the schedule is busy, the company reduces its range. Experienced technicians can sometimes be hard to come by, but the firm has been on the front lines of overcoming that obstacle: is apprenticeship program trains high school graduates on the job.
Plumbing Nerds, Verhoff says, gets 30 to 40 applicants every time it runs an ad for the program.
“Being that you’re paid to learn while in our apprenticeship program and you’re getting paid a high hourly rate to learn, that attracts a lot of people,” he says.
Verhoff would still like to see more young people embrace the trades, so he’s made it his and the company’s mission to change the way the world views skilled trades. Plumbing Nerds employees are called “service professionals” instead of “technicians.” The company’s uniform for its service professionals is a polo shirt and black pants “instead of the typical T-shirts and jeans,” he says.
That perception shift is a mission born of Verhoff’s own experience.
“I just remember at 18 years old being embarrassed to say that I was a plumber, and I don’t think that is OK,” Verhoff says. “We’re not Mario and Luigi with a bunch of butt cracks hanging out. We’re professionals, and I just think we deserve a better reputation than what we’re given.”